Background: Common Craft is an independent consultancy that helps businesses discover and manage online communities and weblogs. As the founder of Common Craft, I established the companys website, CommonCraft.com, as a webloga regularly updated chronicle of news and commentary related to Common Craft's niche.
Challenge: I planned to use search engine results as a promotional tool for the new venture. I knew that achieving high search-engine rankings could be an effective way to find new clients, so my challenge was to make CommonCraft.com appear as high as possible in Google search results. Below is the strategy I used to achieve #1 rankings for targeted phrases in Google search results.
Solution: I researched Google's PageRank technology and learned how to use keywords on my website. Because CommonCraft.com is a weblog, I knew it had inherent advantages in achieving high rankings in Google results- it is updated often and linked-to by other weblogs. The ultimate solution to the challenge lay in (1) attracting links to Common Craft from high-ranked weblogs and websites, and (2) the design and structure of the Common Craft weblog itself.
- Links from other weblogs: One way Google ranks a website is to look at the number of websites that link to the site. (A link is a clickable piece of text that allows the user to jump from one site to another). Each incoming link increases rankings and a link from a high-ranked site is more valuable than a link from a lower-ranked site. These are the basics of PageRank.
These links are created when one website references anotherperhaps to quote a recent post or comment on the subject at hand. Reciprocal links are common between weblogs and help to build a foundation for achieving high rankings.
By writing weblog entries that other weblogs linked to, I increased CommonCraft.com's PageRank in the Google system.
- Weblog design and structure: Google also places importance on keywordswords and phrases that may appear consistently throughout the site because of their relevance to its content. Headings at the top of pages, keywords that appear as links, and repeating keywords all help to appeal to Google.(reference)
To maximize the power of keywords, I used my weblog's categories to achieve high rankings. The blog has seven categories of posts, with each weblog post archived by category. Two examples of categories are "Weblogs and Business" and "Online Community Building." With each weblog post, the category name is displayed at the top of the page as a link to the category archives. This created repeating keywords that appear as links throughout the site. The repeated words and the fact that they are linked both contribute to their search relevance. To maximize the power of keywords, I defined the phrases I wanted to target in Google and named my categories after those phrases. Then, I displayed the links to the category names at the top of each weblog entry (see graphic right).
At the time of this writing (12/8/03), CommonCraft.com is ranked at the following positions on Google searches for these category names and titles:
- #1 Weblogs and Business (category name)
- #1 Online Community Strategies (site title)
- #1 Technology in Plain English (category name)
- #1 Original Writings (category name)
- #4 Online Usability (category name)
- #5 Online Community Building (category name)
Lessons learned: I found a way to achieve high rankings in Google by combining a few basic strategies:
- Effective writing: I posted information that was valued (and linked to) by my peers. This built the foundation of the rankings.
- Defining a niche: I targeted phrases and words that represented my areas of expertise.
- Naming categories: I used the targeted phrases as names for the categories on my weblog. This repeated the phrases over and over across the weblog.
- Weblog format: Each time an entry was posted, it displayed the category name not only as a repeated keyword (as in #3 above), but also as a link to the category archives at the top of the page. This created linked category names across the Weblog.
- Consistency: I posted to the categories on a regular basis.
Lee LeFever lives in Seattle and specializes in helping businesses use online communities and weblogs as business tools. Contact Lee via email at lee(at)CommonCraft(dot)com or by phone at 206-323-1041. The CommonCraft weblog can be found at CommonCraft.com.